General Joseph Martin Chapter

Cumberland Gap, TN


Cumberland Gap Patriot

James Sellers


James Sellers was born in 1759 in Chatham county NC. On November 2, 1779, sellers enlisted in the NC militia in Chatham County. His only major battle was the battle of Guilford courthouse fought on March 16, 1781 fought in Guilford county NC.

     Guilford courthouse is considered to be one of the most decisive battles fought in the Southern campaign, yet its historical significance does not seem to be recognized by most Historians or by the majority of the students who study the battle as other battles in the southern campaign such as Kings Mountain, Cowpens or Yorktown. This may be due in part that it was considered a British Victory while the other battles mentioned were considered a Patriot victory. However this British victory would weaken Cornwallis and the British army so much he would be forced to leave the Carolinas for more troops and supplies in Virginia. Charles Fox, a member of the British Parliament shouted in Parliament “another such victory as this would ruin the British Army.”

  Sellers was apart of the NC Militia numbering 1060 troops that fateful day of March 15, 1781 under the command of Generals Butler and Eaton. They were stationed on a hill in front of a rail fence and a grove of trees with two filed pieces of artillery.

   The British began marching directly east toward the brow of the hill held by the Americans. The NC line fired their first volley when the British were at 140 yards from the NC troops. Half of the British 71st Highlander regiment was killed in the first volley. The British fired back followed by a bayonet charge which caused the NC line to panic and scatter.

   The NC line faced two major problems. Some of the men there were there only because they had been forced there to prove they were not loyalists. Some of these men had been loyalists in the past and were now being forced to show where their allegiance lay. The second problem was Most of the North Carolinians had never witnessed a bayonet charge.

   The bayonet was the most widely used weapon during the Revolutionary war. The Americans face a severe shortage of bayonets at the beginning of the war until France donated over one hundred thousand bayonets to the Americans in 1777. Its transformation of a musket into a spear became the most terrifying and effective weapon in the British arsenal. Once the enemy line had been breached, soldiers with bayonets would charge into the enemy’s line causing the enemy to panic and break formation. The cavalry would then rush in hacking the fleeing soldiers down with their swords.

    Butler and Eaton tried to no avail to stop the panic soldiers from fleeing the field of battle. LT. Col. Henry Lee asked permission from Greene, commander of American forces, if he could send a small part of is cavalry after the fleeing NC line in hopes of stopping the panic. Lee also stated he would cut them down with his own sword if they refused to return to battle. Greene refused Lee’s request.

  At the end of the battle, the British had won, but at a great cost. One fourth of its army had been killed or wounded with 93 dead and 440 wounded. The patriots only suffered 75 killed and 185 wounded.

   After Guilford, Sellers moved to Burke county NC. Today Burke county lists Sellers name as one of the revolutionary war soldiers from that county on a plaque in the Burke county Courthouse In the 1790’s Sellers moved to Grainger county TN. Seller’s wife is unknown. It is believed he married someone in Grainger County. Sellers first son James was born in Grainger County. Sellers died on December 20, 1843 and was buried in Grainger County.

 During the Civil war, Some of Sellers descendents moved to Missouri. One of Sellers grandsons, Minyard Sellers was killed while fighting in the Union Army in Missouri. There were 27 Civil war battles fought in Missouri.

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